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Smart Phones Don’t Make Teens Smarter When Texting While Driving

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It is no big surprise (especially to parents of teens) that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent survey poll shows that teens continue to text while driving and that, in fact, the problem is severe—not moderate—among young drivers? An Associated Press article by Peter Svensson, published June 10, 2012, said the CDC survey shows "about 58 percent of high school seniors said they had texted or emailed while driving during the previous month. About 43 percent of high school juniors acknowledged they did the same thing." This is a scary thought.

According to Svensson’s article, thirty-nine states have banned texting while driving for people of all ages, and five additional states outlaw it especially for teenage drivers. Last week, a coworker noted she had seen a woman driving down a two-lane highway as she was waiting to pull into the flow of traffic from a public parking lot. The woman was looking down in her lap as she drove. Texting while driving has become enough of a taboo that she apparently did not want people to see that she was texting, so she wasn’t even glancing up at the road in front of her. Eventually, the woman’s car drifted into the left lane—in front of a middle school—before she finally course-corrected her vehicle. Imagine what might have occurred had she not finally pulled herself away from that smart phone. What if there had been a loaded school bus in the left lane? Similar sights are daily fare on our nation’s roadways, and not just by teens. Adults are nearly as addicted to their emails, texts, and Facebook updates as teens. And it appears the only thing we can do is to increase public outrage and make it a social taboo to text while driving—instead of DUIs, the police can hand out TWDs.

Some software applications have been developed that are able to silence a cell phone when the "app" detects the device appears to be moving at car speed; unfortunately, the cell phone application cannot distinguish whether the user is a driver or passenger. Some of the controlling apps do not work with Apple’s iPhone—the most popular smart phone in the U.S. One application, SafeCellApp, was even developed that paid people for leaving their phone alone while driving… the fees added up and the company had to raise their rates. The bottom line is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration touts a human solution: Do not use your smart phone to text while driving—at all, even if you have a hands-free option—it is just not too smart. You do not want to become the next big texting while driving headline.